Physical distancing, mask use cuts relative coronavirus risk by at least 80%, study finds

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Wearing a face mask and keeping your distance from others can help to cut your relative risk of catching the novel coronavirus by 80 per cent or more, according to a new paper.

The study, published Monday in the Lancet medical journal, reviewed existing research on these common interventions with regard to SARS-CoV-2 and related coronaviruses and found that face masks, physical distancing and eye protection are all highly effective in stopping the virus, particularly in high-risk or medical settings.

While these interventions have been recommended by health officials for some time, this study provides specific evidence on their effectiveness.

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Standing at least 1 metre away was found to reduce the likelihood of transmission from 12.8 per cent to 2.6 per cent, and standing even further away had an even stronger effect, the study found.

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Masks also mattered, with N95 masks providing the greatest protection. Cloth masks with multiple layers protected better than single-layered masks. Similarly, eye protection, such as goggles or a plastic face shield, also made a difference.

“The risk for infection is highly dependent on distance to the individual infected and the type of face mask and eye protection worn,” the authors wrote in the study.

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